A week before the current school year I was called by the principal of Washington High School in Charles Town, WV to cover a vacancy for a Multi-Categorical Special Education position. The role includes a Self-Contained class of 8 students with IEP classifications and 5 Inclusion classes that I “Co-Teach” with another teacher. The subject for the class is Earth and Space Science. I am a Long-term Substitute teacher, licensed but not Certified.
In 10 short days we will finish the 3rd of 4 9-week teaching periods.
As I write this I am finishing our 5th Period. it is our largest inclusion class and by far the most rambunctious group. Every kid in the class is, in their own way, a pleasure to teach, but when you bring them together it can be quite energetic.
More to come…
One of our teachers invited fellow teachers to be guest speakers in her classroom today during their planning periods. I signed on when I heard about it thinking I could tell these seniors all about my day 15 years ago. It never occurred to me that I had bottled up a lot of pent up energy and memories that I never really talked about with anyone. I have certainly talked to friends and others about what I did that day but never to a group.
What I thought would be relatively easy turned out to be hard at times. I knew people who were lost that day and have stayed very active with those that the US has lost since 9/11 in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but until I started my short speech today I did not realize how that day truly effected me.
Simply put, 9/11/2001 changed America for ever. Unfortunately it has also changed the lives of millions of people around the world who have died in wars we have inflated or created because of that day. Our leadership has relaxed many rules and regulations allowing for enormous increases in insurance costs, inflation, pathetic trade agreements, and a seamless end to inequality.
I am encouraged to write a new book on my personal flash bulb memories.
If and when I find time…
I felt like Justin Bieber today.
I took my youngest to the Sweet Frog in Charles Town today. As usual my son headed right to the back of the store to get a cup. As we passed 3 teenagers who were sitting there I quickly recognized 2 of them from classes I subbed for last year. When they recognized me they both said “We love you.”
Yes, I was a great sub and always nice to the kids. I never Had a welcome like this but it made me happy to know I did a good job.
For just that moment I felt like a music star, but I am admittedly MUCH older than Justin Bieber.
If there was one thing that irritates (not enough to tell anyone outside of this blog) me more than anything else is the question I get almost every time I substitute teach.
The question is not, what are you teaching today?
They always ask “Who are you today?”
I honestly don’t try to memorize the name of the teacher I am replacing. Sometimes I know the person and will remember.
When someone does ask me who I am, I tell them “Steven Douglas”.
More often than not, they don’t like my answer. Especially when they don’t know who I am.
As I mentioned in an earlier post regarding when to, or when not to, report something to Child Protective Services, it is ALARMING to me the lack of information provided to me, as a short term substitute when arriving for a job.
Disclaimer – when I came to my current 30-day job, the IEP coordinator came to me early on to make sure I read through the IEP binder kept in the room (under lock and key of course) so I am aware of learning disabilities and behavioral concerns of the kids.
Today was a 1/2 day. The kids were released at 12:45PM. Teachers then went into Committee Groups from 1-1:30PM. We all met in the auditorium at 1:30PM for a Teachers Council meeting. The administrative discussion was of no interest to me but they had a guest speaker from Blue Ridge Community and Technical College (BRCTC) who is a foster parent. She gave a 10 minute speech on what teachers need to be aware of when relating to students who are also “foster” children. She spoke about some very important things but what I took away most was the concept that CHANGE is a foster care child’s main enemy.
SHORT TERM SUB = CHANGE / INSTABILITY
As she left the auditorium, I followed her out to ask her some questions since not a single question was asked from the audience and being a short term long term sub I did not want to be the only person asking questions.
My question was, do teachers KNOW if a child is in foster care? Is this noted on a child’s IEP, assuming they have one? She told me that there are kids in the program who do have IEP’s but whether or not they’re being foster care kids being noted on the IEP’s is something that is not guaranteed as there is a great deal of secrecy involved in foster care management.
I had a chance to speak with the Special Education co-teacher in my classroom who did tell me which kids in our classes had issues similar to foster care if not directly. This information is NOT noted on their IEPs. Rather in the case of our students, their foster parents made her aware of their situation. In some cases the kids told her directly. After she shared what “unofficial” information she had, I have a much needed background on a bunch of MY STUDENTS that will make me a better, more concerned, educator for the rest of my short tenure at this job.
Back to my overarching question, should short term subs be informed of children in their rooms that have “concerns”? Considering the CHANGE issue, and the fact that I represent change and instability in the room. I have been told that as a substitute I should contact the office whenever their is an issue and not make it my issue to deal with. Perhaps this rule is important as I will imagine most substitute teachers have NO training to deal with these kids. Perhaps regrettable is, that in hindsight, the damage is already done when a substitute unknowingly mismanages a situation before being able to get help.
But I feel that it would be helpful to inform Subs of serious concerns with kids, not only for the benefit of the children, but also for the SAFETY OF THE SUBS?
Follow Up: I spoke to the principal of my current school who confirmed that Foster Care status is completely classified and teachers (much less substitute teachers) are NOT informed of this status.
Since starting substitute teaching last December, I wanted to get a long term sub job because of the 50% increase in pay. The additional moneys DO make a difference, but it is NOT THE SAME experience!
As I am in the middle of my 30 day stint, I am definitely enjoying myself and dont mind waking up early in the morning to get to work. The kids are all OK as well as the rest of the experience…
BUT, it has become a JOB! Like any job I have ever had before it is just that, a J-O-B! The difference perhaps with other J-O-B-s I have had in the past is that teaching is very much the same day-in day-out. The subject matter changes according to the Next Chapter, but the audience never changes day to day, the room is the same, the school is the same.
What I am asking myself now is if I am here for the same reasons I did this the first 4 months. It really isn’t. Sure, I will look forward to the extra money but honestly it is still less than 1/2 of what I typically made in business. It is still very rewarding knowing I am teaching kids something knew, but the stagnation is starting to set in.
Back to the short term?
It was exciting coming to a new school each day. A new environment. A new subject. NEW FACES! New craniums! Lots to write about.
That must be it. With long term teaching there is nothing NEW TO WRITE ABOUT. Long term substituting is no different from teaching other than having lower pay for the same amount of work.
I will have to think long and hard over the summer what I want to do next school season.